Endless Contest: Theorizing the devolution of advanced sports media cultures
Todd Joseph Miles Holden Professor, Mediated Sociology Graduate School of International Cultural Studies Tohoku University Sendai, Japan
Opening on a Closing:The Tour de France The 95th Tour de France (which began on July 5th) will finish this Sunday, July 27th
Opening on a Closing:The Tour de France It began this year in the following predicament: • The 2007 winner American Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 title after testing positive for synthetic testosterone. • And 2 teams were banned: • Astana, the team of eventual winner, Alberto Contador • Due to doping scandals over the last two years • (Team) Cofidis • which withdrew after Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone
The Contested Tour • Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov • Also of Astana • Tested positive for a blood transfusion • And was removed from the Tour last year • Levi Leipheimer • Also of Astana • Also banned
The Contested Tour • Ivan Basso • 2006 Giro d'Italia winner • A 2-time Tour podium finisher • Was also absent, due to a 2-year ban for blood doping
The Contested Tour • Manuel Beltran: • was ejected from the Tour (on July 11, 2008) • For testing positive for the performance-enhancer EPO • Moises Duenas Nevado: • Ejected from the tour (on July 16, 2008) after testing positive for EPO
Doping and Biking • Besides Beltran, Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras and Tyler Hamilton have all failed doping tests on the Tour • all are former Postal riders during Armstrong's seven Tour wins from 1999-2005 • all failed their tests after quitting Armstrong’s team
This Paper:The Inside Dope • Hopefully this slide’s title doesn’t refer to the author • Generally, this is a working paper • It concerns matters like doping, but also other forms of what I label “contest” in sports
This Paper:The Inside Dope Better, it concerns the rampant contestation that sport has introduced into contemporary society. • It focuses on the contest beyond the actual games (I.e. outside the realm that sport has traditionally been about) • Such contest is abetted to a large degree by mass media • The media angle is less empirical here than it needs to be • For media is perhaps the central player in engendering endless contest in contemporary society
Some Premises/Claims • Sport is often viewed as a sublimater of aggressive tendencies (Elias and Dunning 1986) • a simulation of combat, if you will • However, it may, in fact, work to stimulate even more acrimony and deeper societal schisms • With the media as instigator/conspirator/abettor of these “divides”
Some Premises/Claims Sport increases the sense of “contest” in numerous, unanticipated ways. Including: • the heightened emphasis on economic haves and have nots: • the sudden attention by political, administrative and legal entities to rules infractions and enforcement; • the exaggerated attention to rules infractions and conduct violations • The heightened emphasis on stating opinions and taking sides.
Some Premises/Claims Sport increases the sense of “contest” in numerous, unanticipated ways. Including: 5. the increased involvement of public authorities in the activities of private entrepreneurs; 6. the increased sideshow-like ambiance built around athletes and sporting events • fueled by tabloid media • and due to the crossover of athletes into the realm of celebrity, entertainment, and show business
Societal Developmentand Sports • These developments can be located with increasing regularity • It appears true for societies which are most “developed” • i.e. which have achieved the highest rung on modernity’s ladder (e.g. Maguire 1999) • with the largest, most extensive and sophisticated sports media cultures (Miller et al. 2001) • and which have evinced the most advanced stages of “sportization” (Elias 1986).
About this Paper • Showing this requires attention to both empirical and theoretical threads • It also can benefit from comparison • Thus this paper will look at cases from both the United States and Japan • Doing so, we can see that contest is not a phenomenon transpiring only in one society • Although it is manifested in differing ways • Due to factors such as: • the cultural history • The political traditions (and) • The media institution, itself • In this way, contest can be seen as both a universal AND particular phenomenon
About the Cases • And one or more of the following institutional elements: • Political • Legal • Administrative • Economic • Social • All involve the active contestation between one or more of the following human elements: • Athletes • Coaches • Management • Fans
Media Role The role of the media institution is: • Not as neutral reporter • Rather, as active stimulus The Effect is: • A fueling of contestation between the various actors, above, is highlighted Side-effects include: • A widening of connectivity between sports and other societal domains: legal, rational, administrative, economic, political, popular/cultural
Some Aims One avowed aim (at least in the delusional moment of writing my abstract) was: • to identify • then categorize • the various types of contestation transpiring in advanced sporting societies today • then flesh out some of the ways that this can be understood vis-à-vis social theory.
A Main Contention The central role played by the media institution in simultaneously assisting: • societal evolution • and a certain kind of devolution (through increased contestation) Though neither of these may be clearly/obviously seen by simply studying isolated cases of contestation
The Media Assessed Includes: • Talk radio • Newspaper • Television • Internet news sites • Blogs The assessments, themselves, are of non-systematic samples, treated via qualitative content analysis.
The Cases Considered I: The Mitchell Report On March 3, 2006, Major League Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, announced that the league would begin a full-scale investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs • MLB had banned such drugs as part of the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2002
The Cases Considered I: The Mitchell Report Selig named former Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, to head the open-ended investigation. • Mitchell was a director of the Boston Red Sox • Also Chairman of The Walt Disney Co., the parent of ESPN • He insisted his affiliations would have no effect on the investigation
The Cases Considered I: The Mitchell Report Mitchell’s 20 month investigation ended up naming 86 baseball players involved in using performance enhancing drugs Highlights included • 7 MVPs and 31 All-Stars were named • 87 players named; 34 active in 2007 • Former player Jose Canseco (who wrote a best-selling book, Juiced confessing his steroid use) was named 105 times • Barry Bonds was named 103 times • Lenny Dykstra’s use between 1988 and 1993 • The case of 1996 MVP Ken Caminiti • The 1998 case of Mark McGuire • The complicity of players, executives and reporters • Media coverage at the time
The Cases Considered II: Barry Bonds Barry Bonds, a prominent name in the Mitchell Report, is the all-time home run leader in MLB Here we see him in “before” and “after” shots -- from early in his (pre-steroid) career and then later (post-steroids)
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds Bonds, who refused to cooperate with the Mitchell Commission, was featured in the book A Game of Shadows, written by two investigative reporters from The San Francisco Chronicle. That book alleged that there have been two Barry Bonds: • The likely Hall-of-Famer • Who, for 13 years, averaged 32 home runs and a batting average of .298 • And the most prolific home run hitter of all time • Who for the next 6 years averaged 49 home runs and a batting average of .328
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds A Game of Shadows documented: • how Bonds was able to increase his productivity • during what is usually the twilight of a player’s career • Between the ages of 35 and 40 • assisted by steroids
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds • Based on the evidence presented in that book a grand jury was convened • Bonds testified. He denied the allegations that he knowingly took steroids. • He was subsequently indicted for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. • A free agent this year, no team has been willing to pick Bonds up as an active player.
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds • The indictment was based on data obtained from BALCO, a bay area facility asserted to have prescribed steroids to numerous elite athletes • The indictment cited 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath. • His trial is pending • If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in a Federal penitentiary
The Cases Considered III: Roger Clemens One name prominent in the Mitchell Report was that of Roger Clemens
The Cases Considered III: Roger Clemens Clemens is: • A 7-time Cy Young Award winner (best pitcher in the league) • Eighth on the all-time win list with 354 career victories • A league MVP and All-Star • Long considered a sure Hall of Fame entry
The Cases Considered III: Roger Clemens According to the Mitchell report, Clemens may have been supplied with Human Growth Hormone by his personal trainer. Clemens denied these charges However a fellow teammate close friend, and work-out partner, Andy Pettitte, admitted that he was injected with HGH by the same trainer
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens McNamee told Mitchell investigators that: • he injected Clemens with Winstrol through the end of the 1998 season • and that Clemens' performance showed remarkable improvement Records show that Clemens had a record of 5 wins and 6 losses through the first 2 months of the season, then went 15 wins against 0 losses in 22 starts; with an Earned Run Average of 2.29
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens McNamee also told investigators that: • “during the middle of the 2000 season, Clemens made it clear that he was ready to use steroids again.” • Thus, during the latter part of the regular season, McNamee injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times with testosterone.
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens A nationally televised congressional hearing disintegrated along partisan lines • Democrats argued that Clemens should be found guilty of lying to Congress • Republicans argued that he was a hero and role model who, if found guilty, should receive a presidential pardon (from former baseball executive, George W. Bush).
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens The entire Clemens affair further disintegrated into a variety of tabloid stories, about: • Clemens’ wife getting her own steroid injections • The wives of Clemens and Jose Canseco comparing breast implants in front of their husbands at a party • And Clemens alleged affair with a country and western singer who, when she first befriended the pitcher, was only 16.
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens The abiding image of this case, to date, was how it quickly descended into tabloidization, sensationalization, and lurid demonization
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones Another BALCO athlete was Marion Jones • At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Jones finished with three golds and two bronzes • She was featured on the covers of Vogue, Time and Newsweek magazines • She received multi-million dollar contracts for her efforts.
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones • Seven years later she publicly confessed to taking drugs before her Sydney triumphs • She was sentenced to 6 months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors about her steroid use. • She was also stripped of her Olympic medals • And fined.
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones • In sentencing her to prison the judge stated: • "athletes in society ... serve as role models to children around the world. When there is a widespread level of cheating, it sends all the wrong messages.” • And: • "People live with their choices … and the choice not to play by the rules has been compounded by the choice to break the law."
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones In response to the sentencing, USA Track & Field President Bill Roe issued this statement: • (The Jones case is) "a vivid morality play that graphically illustrates the wages of cheating in any facet of life, on or off the track.” • This highlights why cases of cheating occur • I.e. their chance for huge positive payoff • Also highlights why the media is so interested • The idea that it is a “morality play” not unlike a Shakespearean drama or Hollywood movie sprung to life
The Cases Considered V: “Spygate” • In 2008 a claim was made by a former video assistant on the New England Patriots • Considered the team of this decade in the (American) Professional Football League (NFL) • The claim was that New England coach Bill Belichick, had authorized the filming of rival’s practices and the interception of their sideline hand signals during games in 2007 • Both violations of league rules • In a nod to the famous political espionage chapter in United States politics (“Watergate”) this affair was dubbed “spygate” by the U.S. sports/news media
The Cases Considered V: “Spygate” • Although Coach Belichick denied these claims, certain circumstantial evidence suggested it might be true • His personality -- which is notoriously conflictual, conspiratorial, secretive, and paranoid • The fact that the heart of the allegation concerned the championship game of 2002 -- where his team defeated the heavily favored St. Louis Rams • And the existence of videotape which proved the point • One influential member of the U.S. Congress, Senator Arlen Specter (R - Pennsylvania) was so incensed as to demand Congressional Hearings into this affair • Although this seems also to stem from the fact that his home team had lost in playoffs to the Patriots in recent years
The Cases Considered V: “Spygate” • Ultimately the NFL conducted its own internal investigation and then imposed what could be viewed as pre-emptive sanctions • Fining Coach Belichick (U.S.) $500,000 • Fining the Patriots (U.S.) $250,000 • And taking the Patriots 2008 First-round draft pick away • Though not as severe as some might have wished, these were certainly not cosmetic penalties • The media’s general reaction, though, was: the Patriots are so talented they didn’t need that draft pick anyway and Belichick is so financially well off, even if his team doesn’t pick up the tab, he can afford the fine • Moreover, this sort of contest perfectly matched the sort of crotchety “I’ll play the game on my terms” demeanor of the man and his New England team • In short, it was a good story full of the kind of conflict that the audience likes
The Cases Considered VI: Don Imus On Thursday, April 5, 2007, “shock jock” Don Imus uttered words on his CBS morning radio show that ultimately led to his dismissal…
The Cases Considered VI: Don Imus He referred to the NCAA championship women's basketball team on, as "some rough girls from Rutgers. They got tattoos.” Then he went on to call them "some nappy-headed hos.” Comparing them to the Tennessee team they beat for the Women College basketball title, Imus termed the teams as, respectively, "the jigaboos versus the wannabes."